January 16, 2021
2020 Successes and 2021 Issues
Federal and State COVID stimulus programs
The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce promoted PPP loan opportunity to the state’s small businesses. We successfully advocated for $40 million in state small business grants using CARES Act funds to South Carolina.
Offshore Oil Exploration and Drilling
We continued our federal lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Commerce filed in December 2018 by our chamber and 16 SC coastal municipalities. The lawsuit successfully blocked seismic testing permits for oil exploration in the Atlantic from being issued with the judge’s October ruling.
Our campaign launched in April 2019 to have Democratic Presidential candidates committee to a Day One Executive Order to ban all new oil drilling leases on public lands and waters eventually garnered 8 candidate commitments. Just before the South Carolina Democratic Primary in February 2020 we announced via press releases and opinion editorials that only 4 of the remaining candidates on the ballot had committed to this action plan—including Joe Biden.
In 2020 we continued our “Business 4 Protecting the Election” website campaign, started in 2019, to focus on interference in the Presidential election. The campaign included an informational website that included blogs contributed by other business organizations and daily news stories on the subject. All new content was pushed out daily to over 16,000 supporters.
State-Owned Electric Utility
Our advocacy efforts to have the legislature sell the state-owned electric utility, which serves over 2 million customers, continued in 2020. The utility, Santee Cooper, ran up a $4 billion debt for a failed, multi-year nuclear construction project. Selling the utility to an investor-owned utility could remove the debt from ratepayers, lower rates, and close coal plants in favor of renewable energy.
The South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce (SCSBCC) 2021 policy agenda includes both state and national issues. The SCSBCC President and CEO, Frank Knapp, provides leadership to national business organizations as Co-chair of Small Business for America’s Future (SBAF) and Board member of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC). Thus, the SCSBCC is actively engaged on national issues.
Health Insurance (state)
SCSBCC continues to encourage small businesses that do not offer group health insurance to help their employees enroll in the ACA Marketplace, in which 91% of South Carolinians qualify for premium assistance. Using the Federal Insurance Marketplace is a viable, affordable alternative for many small businesses to have their employees obtain health insurance instead of providing traditional group health coverage. We are also helping small business owners explore their options for their own health insurance because premiums have gone up dramatically for those not eligible for premium assistance.
Medicaid Expansion (state)
To date, 38 states and Washington, DC, have adopted the Medicaid expansion opportunity under the Affordable Care Act. South Carolina, one of the 12 states that have not expanded Medicaid, has approximately 312,000 uninsured citizens that are under 100% of the federal poverty level but who do not qualify for our state’s Medicaid program. These uninsured would be eligible for Medicaid if the state adopted the expansion. We support expanding Medicaid both because most of these uninsured work for small businesses and because the uncompensated care for these uninsured results in higher premiums for the insured.
Health Insurance (national)
President Joe Biden’s agenda includes enhancing the Affordable Care Act to continue to make health insurance more affordable. SCSBCC and SBAF support this effort that would include creating a public option that would provide more competition between ACA offered plans and would automatically enroll Americans making less than 100% of the federal poverty level but who do not qualify for a state’s Medicaid plan. The latter would address South Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the ACA. The Biden plan would also expand the ACA’s premium assistance, which would benefit many small business owners. The current ACA policy of capping income level to qualify for premium assistance has forced many small-business owners to pay very high health insurance premiums for themselves and family in the federal insurance Marketplace or to go to the open market for plans with fewer benefits, are short-term and do not guarantee renewal.
Federal Taxes (national)
The 2017 federal tax reform permanently reduced income tax rates for corporations by 40% while providing only a temporary tax deduction for small businesses that are sole-proprietors, LLCs or S-corporations, the vast majority of the nation’s small businesses. Instead of investing their new money into employees and growing their businesses, the corporations used the money to buy back shares of their stocks for the benefit of their shareholders and executives. SCSBCC and SBAF support rolling back much of this corporate tax rate cut to provide financial resources for healthcare, infrastructure, education programs; all of which would be beneficial for small businesses and the economy.
Small Business Jobs Crisis (state & national)
The U.S. is at a 40-year low in small business startups. Since almost all net new jobs come from small businesses less than 5 years old and with 4 or fewer employees, the nation’s and South Carolina’s future economies are threatened. SCSBCC supports reforming the US Small Business Administration to address this new business start-up crisis. Under the proposed reforms, several of which are supported by SBAF, the US Small Business Administration would be given the mission mandate, authority and resources to address this economic crisis.
Offshore Exploration and Drilling for Oil (state & national)
SCSBCC, which successfully blocked offshore oil drilling and exploration, will continue to take any actions needed to make sure that the Atlantic Coast and our vibrant small business tourism industry is not threatened by Big Oil.
Santee Cooper (state)
SCSBCC will continue to advocate for the SC legislature to sell Santee Cooper, our state-owned utility, to an investor-owned utility for better management, business decisions and ratepayer savings. A sale is the only method of relieving the Santee Cooper ratepayers from being responsible for paying the $3.6 billion debt the utility created in its failed nuclear construction project, which was abandoned in July of 2017. In addition, the sale should result in faster closure of Santee Cooper’s coal plants and transition to greener energy generation.
Universal and Portable Employee Benefits (state and national)
To increase small business competitiveness with big business in attracting employees, SCSBCC supports numerous state and national efforts to create universal and portable worker benefits facilitated by the state or federal government. Small businesses would benefit from universal employee paid family/medical leave as well as well as portable retirement programs. SCSBCC supports the AARP-SC sponsored Work and Save program that would create a self-sustaining, completely voluntary retirement savings plan for small business owners who don’t currently offer a retirement plan to employees. It would operate much like a 529 college savings plan, but for retirement. This public-private partnership would be run by financial service providers from the private sector.
Utility Electric Rates and Solar Programs (state)
As a residential and commercial customer of Dominion Energy, the SCSBCC President and CEO, will continue to personally intervene in Public Service Commission hearings that would result in unnecessary rate hikes and reductions of incentives for solar energy. He will also continue serving on Dominion Energy’s South Carolina Energy Efficiency Advisory Group.
SCSBCC will continue its longstanding efforts on the below policies:
Climate Change and Sea Level Rise
Protecting Small Businesses in the Legal Process
State Government Procurement
Workers’ Compensation Insurance